Annual INTEREST Conference kicks off in Accra, Ghana

It’s a year of firsts for the 13th annual INTEREST Conference.

It’s the first time the conference has received more than 600 abstract submissions.

It’s the first time this HIV-focused scientific event is being held in Accra, Ghana.

And it’s the first time that Journalist Scholars Training is being held as part of the event.

The annual INTEREST Conference is the premier scientific conference for HIV in Africa and brings together scientists involved in HIV treatment, pathogenesis, and prevention research from around the world. Founded in 2006 by the late prof. Joep Lange and prof. Charles Boucher of Virology Education, the conference provides a unique opportunity for young researchers to present their work at an international conference, attend mentoring sessions with senior scientists, and network with their peers.

This year’s event is taking place at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra, Ghana from May 14-17. The conference is held in a different African country each year.

As part of the open call for abstracts, 613 abstracts were received – a 60% increase over the response to the abstract call for last year’s conference held in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of abstracts submitted. This speaks to the important platform INTEREST provides to the HIV research and scientific community, and particularly to young researchers who often present their work here for the first time,” said prof. Cate Hankins, Scientific Chair for the conference and AIGHD Academic Staff.

In addition to symposia, oral and poster presentations, and lively debates, the program also includes parallel early morning sessions. These include the Joep Lange early-career mentoring sessions with senior researchers, the grantspersonship discussions presented by NIH, ANRS, and EDCTP, and themed poster discussions led by members of the International Conference Committee. The mentoring sessions are chaired by senior scientists and researchers and allow participants to ask questions and receive guidance in an intimate setting.

The International AIDS Society and the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) are conducting training for selected journalists as part of the conference. The training, attended by 14 journalists from around the world including Ghana, the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Switzerland, Uganda and Zimbabwe includes discussions with top HIV scientists and insight from the INTEREST co-chairs (prof Kwasi Torpey, prof. Elly Katabira, and prof Cate Hankins) into the conference agenda. Equipped with this information, the journalist fellows can ensure that they focus on sessions that are most meaningful for their audiences.

“The goal of this training is to empower this group of journalists, who have demonstrated their commitment to reporting on HIV, by getting them up-to-speed on a broad range of topics with respect to HIV, including the anticipated results of the ECHO trial,” said Prof. Hankins. “We’re pleased to partner with IAS and AVAC to support training in the reporting of HIV and simultaneously to elevate the profile of the INTEREST conference.”

The INTEREST Conference is organized by AIGHD and Virology Education each year. The Local Co-chair is Prof. Kwasi Torpey of the University of Ghana. Prof. Elly Katabira of Makerere University, Uganda is INTEREST Conference co-chair.

Follow the live updates from the conference on Twitter: @INTERESTconf and visit the INTEREST Conference website for the full scientific program.